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Exposure to untrustworthy websites in the 2020 US election


Research using large-scale data on individuals’ internet use has provided vital information about the scope and nature of exposure to misinformation online. However, most prior work relies on data collected during the 2016 US election. Here we examine exposure to untrustworthy websites during the 2020 US election, using over 7.5 million website visits from 1,151 American adults. We find that 26.2% (95% confidence interval 22.5% to 29.8%) of Americans were exposed to untrustworthy websites in 2020, down from 44.3% (95% confidence interval 40.8% to 47.7%) in 2016. Older adults and conservatives continued to be the most exposed in 2020 as in 2016, albeit at lower rates. The role of online platforms in exposing people to untrustworthy websites changed, with Facebook playing a smaller role in 2020 than in 2016. Our findings do not minimize misinformation as a key social problem, but instead highlight important changes in its consumption, suggesting directions for future research and practice.

Ryan C. Moore
Ross Dahlke
Jeffrey T. Hancock
Nature Human Behaviour
Publication Date
March 13, 2021